THE WANDERER, MAY 17, 2007 JOSEPH SOBRAN'S WASHINGTON WATCH Bleak Prospects The announced Republican presidential candidates had their, er, debate, on MSNBC, with Chris Matthews presiding like a sheepdog. No opening or closing statements, just quick responses, with lots of barking. In such a format, so early in the race, it seems rather pointless to speak of winners and losers, but Mitt Romney's team was understandably elated. Romney showed impressive poise, fielding questions deftly and probably disarming many viewers' misgivings about his Mormon religion; as an old Michigander who vividly remembers his maladroit father, Gov. George Romney, I could hardly believe this was George's son. The old man, a "moderate" Republican (remember them?), is still best known for destroying his own presidential ambitions in 1968 with a single word: He said he'd been "brainwashed" by the military into supporting the Vietnam War. That episode obviously taught Mitt a lesson he has never forgotten. John McCain, on the other hand, struck me as weary and worn out, a spent force. The days of the Straight Talk Express are long gone. He has become an apologist for a lost cause, and his recent foray into darkest Baghdad made him look absurd. Stuck with a lot of positions that may once have seemed feisty, he now excites more pity than enthusiasm. The evening's comedy was provided by Rudy Giuliani, who is also stuck with positions that made him a winner in the Big Apple, but fail to grab Ma and Pa Kettle in the heartland. Knowing this, he tripped all over his shoelaces trying to "clarify" his views on abortion, which he now says he hates but believes is a decision that each woman must be free to make for herself though he would encourage her not to and he believes in federalism and would appoint judges who might or might not reverse Roe v. Wade because he is a strict constructionist. Or words (many, many words) to that effect. The pundits all had a good belly laugh at his desperate wriggling, impassioned self-contradiction, and garrulously transparent hypocrisy. He seemed to be wearing an invisible bad toupee. Something tells me his campaign is headed downhill. The candidate who did acquit himself honorably was, as I expected, Ron Paul of Texas, the one real conservative in the lot. He was also the only one who clearly opposed the Iraq War and raised the subject of the U.S. Constitution. Paul had not come to waffle. He had barely shown up in the pre-debate polls, but his small following is ardent, and he did surprisingly well in the polls taken after the, er, debate. Paul's forthright presence was the only thing that made it a debate at all. The others all invoked the sacred name of Reagan and avoided the name of Bush, as if equally afraid of being identified with him and of being seen as renegades to the GOP. What the evening showed was that George W. Bush has put his party in an extremely awkward posture. In a way, even the abominable Giuliani merely reflects this fact: Bush has sacrificed the post-Reagan anti-abortion party consensus to the Iraq War, just when the whole country was finally coming around. And if Giuliani should somehow win the GOP presidential nomination next year, both major parties will offer pro-abortion candidates, and Republican defections will ensure a Democratic victory. Could the GOP even survive that? The Darwinian Trap The pundits also enjoyed a hearty laugh when three of the Republicans said they didn't believe in the theory of evolution. Darwinism is of course one of those things Everybody Knows, except perhaps the aforementioned Ma and Pa Kettle. As is often the case, however, Everybody "Knows" this only in the sense that few dare to question it, though few actually think about it. It is really one of those received ideas that has been dinned into us until it has come to seem self-evident, like the alleged superiority of democracy to all other forms of government. How can it possibly be false? But ask people =how= they know it, and you quickly find that they simply accept it on sheer faith. That disembodied god Science, the ultimate authority, has spoken. The social pressure to assent to it is intense. Millions of "educated" people can't even imagine doubting it. And besides, who wants to be smirked at? Yet Darwinism has many intelligent critics, some of whom are scientists, and others who rely on simple common sense. The latter include C.S. Lewis in his classic MIRACLES: A PRELIMINARY STUDY and Ann Coulter in her recent best-seller, GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM. To these I would add DARWINIAN FAIRYTALES (just republished by Encounter) written by the late Australian philosopher David Stove, himself an atheist who rejects Darwinism as nonsense on its face that -- never mind the fossil record -- can't withstand the most obvious tests of its cogency. After all, Darwin's thesis of a "ruthless" "struggle for survival" purports to be not a mere fact about the prehistoric past, but a scientific law, a "universal generalization," true always and everywhere, as men, like all other species, compete for a limited supply of food, and so forth. Thus if it was ever true, it was always true and always must and will be. So it must also be true today. But is it? Obviously not. We are far more cooperative than competitive in the horrifyingly ruthless way that Darwin says it is our very nature to be. Every hospital, charity, and even family refutes the whole batty idea. According to his theory, we should not only neglect our own children -- with whom, after all, we must compete for food -- but eat them too! Darwinians have tried to dodge these logical implications of the theory, and some have even argued against charities and relief programs on grounds that they preserve the "unfit" -- which is exactly what they are supposed to do. There is no reason, place, or explanation for mercy in this absurd view. But such is the hypnotic power of the false but clear idea. In that respect, Darwinism is like Calvinism or Communism, but far more successful as a circular trap for the modern mind. This is a bold, breathtaking, exhilarating book that daringly attacks its target in its very stronghold, just where Everybody (or nearly Everybody) assumes it to be safe, strong, and impregnable. In fact, Stove insists, the idea is "mad"; and he never lets up. The result is a book that is not only trenchant but often very, very funny. + + + "In a nutshell, Phil Donahue's philosophy boils down to this: 'Mean old nuns whacked my knuckles with a ruler, ergo God doesn't exist.'" REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME -- a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian -- will provoke thoughts and smiles. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter, SOBRAN'S, yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website, www.sobran.com. Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription for a priest, friend, or relative. --- Joseph Sobran Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/wanderer/w2007/w070517.shtml". This column copyright (c) 2007 by THE WANDERER, the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867, www.thewandererpress.com. Reprinted with permission. 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